For the past 25 years, Arkebauer has worked with port authorities, developing a keen sense of how to nurture economic development in communities. He’s negotiated 200-plus deals, totaling more than $1.8 billion worth of investments throughout Ohio, including expansion and creation of new business.
He has worked with various governments and private corporations, one example being a new corporate headquarters for Owens Corning in Toledo.
The port authority’s board — five area entrepreneurs with backgrounds in finance, law and public planning — hired Arkebauer, at a rate of $150 an hour on an as-needed basis.
The port authority’s funding, along with Arkebauer’s salary, comes from money generated through interest or fees when businesses agree to use port services.
Commissioners provided a $50,000 startup loan, from taxpayer funds, to kickstart operations. Arkebauer expects to pay back the loan as the port authority begins accepting projects. Arkebauer recently clued the Register in on his plans for Erie County’s port authority:
Q: How will you help improve Erie County, including creating and keeping new jobs here while spurring economic development?
JA: I want to give Erie County an advantage to go after projects, whether it’s a company looking to locate somewhere or to expand companies here in the area. We have all kinds of options, and we are going to give them the best deal.
Q: What makes Erie County unique and a premier destination to do business in?
JA: You’ve got the lake. You have available land and available infrastructure. You are right off the Ohio Turnpike. NASA Plum Brook is a tremendous asset. There are a lot of benefits that Erie County has.
Q: What will your relationship be with local organizations?
JA: The port authority can work on certain projects, but we are not going to be the port of entry for projects. That comes through the state or the Erie County Economic Development Corp. We can add value to certain projects. We are just another tool to make it work.
Q: What are some signs encouraging you about today’s economy, parlaying into businesses possibly relocating into Erie County?
JA: We are seeing an increase in foreign-direct investment that is coming from overseas. Europe and other areas far east want to come to the U.S. and do not want to own their facilities. This is the area where the port authority, depending on the project and credit, could be very instrumental.
Q: Are there any requirements of a company using the port authority’s services?
JA: The port authority does not have job retention or creation requirements. But it does take a project of at least $1.5 million for it to get involved.
Q: Is there any financial risk with a port authority?
JA: Depends on the project. There are various ways of structuring projects where the port authority takes some risk and projects that have no risk. Typically, you try to structure this as no risk.